Keynote Remarks

Carol Guzy

Hi, I’m Carol Guzy, a photojournalist for almost four decades. I’m profoundly honored to be invited to participate in this annual ceremony.

In these uncertain times, the global pandemic has created a surreal quiet – a “sacred pause” for us all to perhaps step back, slow down, breathe, re-evaluate priorities and an awakening about the earth and the delicate connection and balance of all beings.

For now, no gatherings, no comforting touch, no embrace of those next to us, as the Freedom Forum Journalists Memorial pays tribute to those who died covering the news and sadly, 11 more names will be added. Two perished in a Turkish airstrike in the brutal conflict in Syria just before I arrived last fall. Every loss is personal – we’re all family.

These days our definition of hero has been revised. But concerned and compassionate journalists have long been heroes, risking all in the pursuit of truth. They run towards danger and many are on the frontlines now covering an invisible enemy. Stories are more crucial than ever to decipher misinformation, provide awareness, evoke empathy.

It has been said when you make a photo, you take a piece of the soul. As well, you give a part of yours. In telling stories, there are pieces of our souls scattered all over the earth. Indeed it’s what makes us whole in our collective humanity.

But a “shoot the messenger” mentality towards the media is escalating. So often journalists are targets. We are not the enemy and this dangerous rhetoric must stop, please. Somehow we need to enlighten about real documentary reportage. A free press is an essential part of any democracy. It’s our First Amendment.

But seeing too much hardship over morning cereal can trouble readers and fingers point at the press for running those disturbing stories.

Yes, reality is uncomfortable to view but for many there is no breakfast cereal or freedom from fear, ever. Perhaps that’s what society should find most intolerable, not the pictures and words that remind us of it. As well, let’s remember, as we stay home in relative comfort – so many we cover have no running water to wash hands, no social distancing in crowded camps.

All the names on this hallowed list represent not only courageous journalists, but they are someone’s beloved son, daughter, spouse, parent, colleague, friend.

A passage from Plato I read for the eulogy of my cherished friend Michel du Cille that’s so beautiful: “The souls of people, on their way to Earth-life, pass through a room full of lights; each takes a taper – often only a spark – to guide it in the dim country of this world. But some souls, by rare fortune, are detained longer – have time to grasp a handful of tapers, which they weave into a torch. These are the torch-bearers of humanity – its poets, seers, and saints, who lead and lift the race out of the darkness, toward the light. They are the law-givers, the light-bringers, way-showers and truth-tellers, and without them humanity would lose its way in the dark.”

We honor brave journalists who passed by our words and deeds. By never wavering from telling stories that are vital and rising up a little bit higher in human decency and grace. Especially in such difficult years for this profession, know that what we do can offer those who feel invisible in the darkest shadows of despair – that intangible and invaluable essence – hope.

Be the light. Carry that torch.

Reporters, photographers, radio and TV correspondents, in Haiti, Iraq, Mexico, the U.S., their own hometowns: Gunned down, beaten, drone strikes.

For all the voices listed in this poignant tribute that were silenced too soon:

You were loved. You were valued. You will be dearly missed.